Donald Trump has long campaigned on the promise of running the country the way he's run his businesses. On that basis, we essentially already know what it would mean if he entered the Oval Office and applied his personal business acumen to this nation (and the rest of the world). There's a surprisingly full record to cite. Who can forget, for instance, what happened to his signature gambling resorts in Atlantic City? Who can forget their serial failures in what was still relatively good times in that city, including the repeated trips to bankruptcy court and the way he stiffed local contractors and suppliers, running them out of business? As Russ Buettner and Charles Bagli of the New York Times summed it up: "He put up little of his own money, shifted personal debts to the casinos and collected millions of dollars in salary, bonuses, and other payments. The burden of his failures fell on investors and others who had bet on his business acumen."
In his pre-political years, he perfected what Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek dubbed "the art of the bad deal": "lost contracts, bankruptcies, defaults, deceptions, and indifference to investors." And from every bad deal for those who supported him, he's almost always walked away better off. All in all, it's quite a record (and don't even mention Trumped Up University). There is no reason to believe that this pattern of behavior would change in the White House. After all, The Donald's record shows a remarkable consistency, so it's possible to imagine with a fair degree of accuracy what you're going to get.
Take election night 2012 when The Donald was still a Mitt Romney supporter. CNN recently reported on his tweets that night and judging by his comment on the Chinese invention of climate change, his complaints about polling violations, his outburst about "sham" elections, and in the wake of Romney's loss his call for "revolution," there hasn't been much truly new under the Trumpian sun in 2016 -- not even his last tweet of that night four years ago: "We have to make America great again!" In other words, his record should be considered remarkably predictive. So count on this: from the Oval Office, he'll walk away a richer man, leaving the rest of us holding the bag, and his supporters, particularly white working class men, in a striking version of hell.
Then, of course, there's the other candidate. You know who -- the woman who never saw a bank CEO she couldn't get a couple of hundred thousand dollars from for giving thoroughly unsurprising speeches. Today, TomDispatch regular Nomi Prins, author of All the Presidents' Bankers, explores what our world might be like if The Donald goes down in flames and Hillary Clinton enters the White House next January. Consider this, economically speaking, the definition of a hold-onto-your-hats election, no matter who wins. Tom
Waking Up in Hillary Clinton's America
Wall Street in the Saddle
By Nomi Prins
As this endless election limps toward its last days, while spiraling into a bizarre duel over vote-rigging accusations, a deep sigh is undoubtedly in order. The entire process has been an emotionally draining, frustration-inducing, rage-inflaming spectacle of repellent form over shallow substance. For many, the third debate evoked fatigue. More worrying, there was again no discussion of how to prevent another financial crisis, an ominous possibility in the next presidency, whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton enters the Oval Office -- given that nothing fundamental has been altered when it comes to Wall Street's practices and predation.- Advertisement -
At the heart of American political consciousness right now lies a soul-crushing reality for millions of distraught Americans: the choices for president couldn't be feebler or more disappointing. On the one hand, we have a petulant, vocabulary-challenged man-boar of a billionaire, who hasn't paid his taxes, has regularly left those supporting him holding the bag, and seems like a ludicrous composite of every bad trait in every bad date any woman has ever had. On the other hand, we're offered a walking photo-op for and well-paid speechmaker to Wall-Street CEOs, a one-woman money-raising machine from the 1% of the 1%, who, despite a folksiness that couldn't look more rehearsed, has methodically outplayed her opponent.
With less than two weeks to go before E-day -- despite the Trumptilian upheaval of the last year -- the high probability of a Clinton win means the establishment remains intact. When we awaken on November 9th, it will undoubtedly be dawn in Hillary Clinton's America and that potentially means four years of an economic dystopia that will (as would Donald Trump's version of the same) leave many Americans rightfully anxious about their economic futures.
None of the three presidential debates suggested that either candidate would have the ability (or desire) to confront Wall Street from the Oval Office. In the second and third debates, in case you missed them, Hillary didn't even mention the Glass-Steagall Act, too big to fail, or Wall Street. While in the first debate, the subject of Wall Street only came up after she disparaged the tax policies of "Trumped-up, trickle down economics" (or, as I like to call it, the Trumpledown economics of giving tax and financial benefits to the rich and to corporations).
In this election, Hillary has crafted her talking points regarding the causes of the last financial crisis as weapons against Trump, but they hardly begin to tell the real story of what happened to the American economy. The meltdown of 2007-2008 was not mainly due to "tax policies that slashed taxes on the wealthy" or a "failure to invest in the middle class," two subjects she has repeatedly highlighted to slam the Republicans and their candidate. It was a byproduct of the destruction of the regulations that opened the way for a too-big-to-fail framework to thrive. Under the presidency of Bill Clinton, Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era act that once separated people's bank deposits and loans from any kind of risky bets or other similar actions in which banks might engage, was repealed under the Financial Modernization Act of 1999. In addition, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act was passed, which allowed Wall Street to concoct devastating unregulated side bets on what became the subprime crisis.
Given that the people involved with those choices are still around and some are still advising (or in the case of one former president living with) Hillary Clinton, it's reasonable to imagine that, in January 2017, she'll launch the third term of Bill Clinton when it comes to financial policy, banks, and the economy. Only now, the stakes are even higher, the banks larger, and their impunity still remarkably unchallenged.
Consider President Obama's current treasury secretary, Jack Lew. It was Hillary who hit the Clinton Rolodex to bring him back to Washington. Lew first entered Bill Clinton's White House in 1993 as special assistant to the president. Between his stints working for Clinton and Obama, he made his way into the private sector and eventually to Wall Street -- as so many of his predecessors had done and successors would do. He scored a leadership role with Citigroup during the time that Bill Clinton's former Treasury Secretary (and former Goldman Sachs co-Chairman) Robert Rubin was on its board of directors. In 2009, Hillary selected him to be her deputy secretary of state.- Advertisement -
Lew is hardly the only example of the busy revolving door to power that led from the Clinton administration to the Obama administration via Wall Street (or activities connected to it). Bill Clinton's Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs, Timothy Geithner worked with Robert Rubin, later championed Wall Street as president and CEO of the New York Federal Reserve while Hillary was senator from New York (representing Wall Street), and then became Obama's first treasury secretary while Hillary was secretary of state.
One possible contender for treasury secretary in a new Clinton administration would be Bill Clinton's Under Secretary of Domestic Finance and Obama's Commodity Futures Trading Commission chairman, Gary Gensler (who was -- I'm sure you won't be shocked -- a Goldman Sachs partner before entering public service). These, then, are typical inhabitants of the Clinton inner circle and of the political-financial corridors of power. Their thinking, like Hillary's, meshes well with support for the status quo in the banking system, even if, like her, they are willing on occasion to admonish it for its "mistakes."
This thru-line of personnel in and out of Clinton World is dangerous for most of the rest of us, because behind all the "talking heads" and genuinely amusing Saturday Night Live skits about this bizarre election lie certain crucial issues that will have to be dealt with: decisions about climate change, foreign wars, student-loan unaffordability, rising income inequality, declining social mobility, and, yes, the threat of another financial crisis. And keep in mind that such a future economic meltdown isn't an absurdly long-shot possibility. Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve, the nation's main bank regulator, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the government entity that insures our bank deposits, collectively noted that seven of our biggest eight banks -- Citigroup was the exception -- still have inadequate emergency plans in the event of another financial crisis.